Latin Translations of The 12th Century

Latin translations of the 12th century were spurred by a major search by European scholars for new learning unavailable in Christian Europe at the time; their search led them to areas of southern Europe, particularly in central Spain and Sicily, which recently had come under Christian rule following their reconquest in the late 11th century. These areas had been under a Muslim rule for considerable time, and still had substantial Arabic-speaking populations to support their search. The combination of Muslim accumulated knowledge, substantial numbers of Arabic-speaking scholars, and the new Christian rulers made these areas intellectually attractive, as well as culturally and politically accessible to Latin scholars. A typical story is that of Gerard of Cremona (c. 1114–87), who is said to have made his way to Toledo, well after its reconquest by Christians in 1085, because he

arrived at a knowledge of each part of according to the study of the Latins, nevertheless, because of his love for the Almagest, which he did not find at all amongst the Latins, he made his way to Toledo, where seeing an abundance of books in Arabic on every subject, and pitying the poverty he had experienced among the Latins concerning these subjects, out of his desire to translate he thoroughly learnt the Arabic language....

While Muslims were busy translating and adding their own ideas to Greek philosophies, the Latin West was still suspicious of pagan ideas. Leaders of the Orthodox Church in the Byzantine Empire also frowned upon philosophy, and the Empire had just gone through a period of plague, famine, and war. Further west, several key figures in European history who came after Boethius had strengthened the overwhelming shift away from Greek ideas. St. Jerome, for example, was hostile to Aristotle, and St. Augustine had little interest in exploring philosophy, only applying logic to theology. For centuries, Greek ideas in Europe were all but non-existent. Only a few monasteries had Greek works, and even fewer of them copied these works.

There was a brief period of revival, when the Anglo-Saxon monk Alcuin and others reintroduced some Greek ideas during the Carolingian Renaissance. After Charlemagne's death, however, intellectual life again fell into decline. Excepting a few persons promoting Boethius, such as Gerbert of Aurillac, philosophical thought was developed little in Europe for about two centuries. By the 12th century, however, scholastic thought was beginning to develop, leading to the rise of universities throughout Europe. These universities gathered what little Greek thought had been preserved over the centuries, including Boethius' commentaries on Aristotle. They also served as places of discussion for new ideas coming from new translations from Arabic throughout Europe.

By the 12th century, European fear of Islam as a military threat had lessened somewhat. Toledo, in Spain, had fallen from Arab hands in 1085, Sicily in 1091, and Jerusalem in 1099. These linguistic borderlands proved fertile ground for translators. These areas had been conquered by Arab Greek and Latin-speaking peoples over the centuries and contained linguistic abilities from all these cultures. The small and unscholarly population of the Crusader Kingdoms contributed very little to the translation efforts, until the Fourth Crusade took most of the Byzantine Empire. Sicily, still largely Greek-speaking was more productive; it had seen rule under Byzantines, Arabs, and Italians, and many were fluent in Greek, Arabic, and Latin. Sicilians, however, were less influenced by Arabs and instead are noted more for their translations directly from Greek to Latin. Spain, on the other hand, was an ideal place for translation from Arabic to Latin because of a combination of rich Latin and Arab cultures living side by side.

Unlike the interest in the literature and history of classical antiquity during the Renaissance, 12th century translators sought new scientific, philosophical and, to a lesser extent, religious texts. The latter concern was reflected in a renewed interest in translations of the Greek Church Fathers into Latin, a concern with translating Jewish teachings from Hebrew, an interest in the Qur'an and other Islamic religious texts. In addition, some Arabic literature was also translated into Latin.

Read more about Latin Translations Of The 12th Century:  Translators in Italy, Translators On The Spanish Frontier, Other European Translators

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Latin Translations Of The 12th Century - Other European Translators
1116–1142) translations into Latin included al-Khwarizmi's astronomical and trigonometrical work Astronomical tables and his arithmetical work ... Abu Kamil's Algebra was also translated into Latin during this period, but the translator of the work is unknown. 1200–1227) translations include the works of Nicolaus of Damascus and Hunayn ibn Ishaq ...

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